Pakistan may import Hindu idols from India as it undertakes restoration of the ancient Katasraj temple complex near Lahore, its officials told Leader of Opposition LK Advani on Wednesday.
A delegation of Pakistan officials led by Orya Maqbool Jan Abbasi, director-general of Punjab province's archeology, met Advani to brief him on the progress of the restoration work of the temple dating back to 600BC.
Advani had inaugurated the work when he visited that country in June 2005. It was for the first time since 1947 that an Indian political personality had been invited to launch a project aimed at the restoration of a Hindu temple in Pakistan.
Abbasi told Advani that his country wanted to complete the restoration work in three years with its own resources though offer of financial help had come from India. A sum of Rs 6.3 crore would be spent this year.
The basic conservation work was proceeding at a fast pace so that the shrine for Lord Shiva is ready by Mahashivaratri next month to receive Hindu pilgrims, including a contingent from India.
It will be for the first time since any Hindu temple has been renovated and opened for worship in Pakistan.
"We may have to import Hindu idols from India since our sculptors are familiar only with the Islamic art and heritage," Abbasi was quoted as saying by BJP secretary Balbir Punj who was also present at the meeting.
Abbasi and his team, which left for Pakistan later in the afternoon, said they had studied the shrines at Varanasi and Pushkar, newly constructed Akshardam temple in Delhi and the restoration work done inside the Ajanta-Ellora caves.
Advani told the Pakistani officials that he appreciated the work undertaken by their government and hoped that Islamabad would undertake renovation of the historic Hingalraj temple in Baluchistan, the Lav temple inside the Lahore Fort and the Shiva temple in Karachi, which was visited by President Pervez Musharraf recently.
Abbasi told Advani that Punjab government proposed to renovate the Valmiki temple outside the Lahore Fort. Advani wanted them to visit Tirupati and Vaishnodevi shrines about the arrangements made for devotees.
After Advani had visited Katasraj in 2005, a decision was taken to involve the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in renovation of the ancient Shiva temple. ASI had prepared a three-phase $25 million development project for the purpose and its team had undertaken a visit to the site.
Hindus believe that Katasraj and Pushkar (Rajasthan) are the two tear drops of Lord Shiva. Katasraj is rated the second most sacred place after Jwalamukhi in Himachal Pradesh.
The Katasraj shrine is believed to have been constructed at the site visited by the Pandavas during their 14-year exile. Apart from the 600 BC temples, which are in a dilapidated condition, there is a sacred pool with mythical association with Lord Shiva. The pond is believed to have come into being with the tears of Lord Shiva on the death of his wife Sati.